Rancho Rossa Vineyards has been in business since 2002 marking the first years planting. In 2006 they opened the tasting room, and the day I conducted this interview marked a quiet 5th anniversary. They have had their wines featured in Wine Spectator and received good reviews and other local awards as well. Clearly they are not killing all their grapes. They have the biggest plot of land planted in the only AVA in Arizona at 25 acres, which is by no means a large vineyard, but for the area it is quite large. They also have the distinction of being the only vineyard with only estate wines. They have full control from the ground to the bottle and that is just the way Chris wants it, "I am a control freak."
Part of his mission is also to educate costumers on how to read labels so they are assured they are buying Arizona wine. As I have said in previous posts some wineries are still using California fruit and then fermenting and bottling it on their property. Chris has had a number of angry costumers come in to his winery once they found out that information. So now on his website he has a tab to click on about how to read a label.
Chris is a very interesting character, as he is working two jobs, one as a vintner and the other as a pilot. And if you have ever met and talked to a pilot you know what I mean (I grew up next to Luke Air Force Base). They have a very definite swagger and energy, and can talk your ear off about just about anything. We were talking for so long, that soon it was approaching dinner time and he invited us to a local restaurant. Unfortunately, we were not able to join he and his wife, Sarah, because our tired 4 year old son was ready to crash at our Inn.
Chris is confident about his wine and loves working in the fields. He feels anyone can make wine, and the true quality control comes from the vines. He is a self admitted control freak and has no intention of ever buying grapes, since he could not manage how they were grown. He very much enjoys the distinction of being the only one in the area to have exclusive estate wines. And since he is about 100 feet higher than Callaghan, Canelo Hills, and Kief-Joshua Vineyards, the weather was not as brutal last year. Yes, they were still affected, however being that little-bit-higher (100 feet) caused most of the horrible frost, wind, and hail to swoop down to the lower vineyards.
Like most of the wineries, Rancho Rossa is involved in giving back to the community. They help out a local shelter by running an annual fund raising event for them at the vineyard yearly. And like so many people, they have personally been affected by the horrors of losing a loved one to cancer, so for every bottle they sell they donate $0.10 to the American Cancer Society.
Their niche is making varietals and keeping the prices of their wine affordable. "It just kills me what some of these guys (referring to other wineries) charge. I want my bottle to move and for people to be able to afford to drink my wine. Plus, I want the price to resemble the quality of what is in the bottle. I know the difference between a $10 bottle of wine and a $30 bottle of wine. If I overcharge people know that, and then they don't drink the wine and leave feeling ripped off. We are not about that, we charge good prices for high quality estate wine," Chris explains after I asked him how he prices his wine. He has a good point.
The vineyard used to be filled with all white varietals, but the vines where just not producing how he would like ,so those are now replaced with Cabernet Sauvingon, Merlot, Syrah, and one acre of Chardonnay. His goal has always been to make the best wine out of the grapes he grows. Currently the Cabernet is the best seller, and that's a good thing since those vines are also doing the best at producing wonderful grapes. Look for a sparkling wine to make it's debut on the menu sometime in the near future, as that part of wine making has interested him for a while now.
|Yes, our son comes with us on every trip!|
2008 Sauvignon Blanc- Crisp and fruity, created in a New Zealand style. Flavors of crisp apple and green grass. Stainless steel fermented to keep it fresh and fruity. $15
*Honestly skip this wine, the nose was very interesting, I could not figure out what it was, and the finish was small with tons of acid. Not for me sorry.
2007 Casa Cuvee- A blend of marsanne, chardonnay, and roussanne. Rich and toasty. Fermented in American oak for 12 months. Ripe pear and tropical fruit flavors with a touch of toast. $18
*I was very interested in this wine when I read the description, however I was disappointed. The nose was grassy with a hint of green beans and lemon. The wine itself was very harsh, and hard to swallow. Sorry not for me again.
2006 Chardonnay -Medium bodied and lightly oaked, flavors of ripe pear and green apple. Barrel fermented and lees aged for 10 months. Full bodied with just a hint of oak. We added a small amount of marsanne to give it extra body. $15
*Oh good things are looking up! After the first two I was getting worried since it was recommended I visit here. Plus this is my least favorite grape so I was really worried, but pleasantly surprised! On the nose I found tons of creamy butter, vanilla, and soft oak. This wine had great body, with a creamy mouth feel. It had a nice roundness due to the barrel aging, but it was not overdone. This wine would lend itself nicely to any creamy dish, or any protein with a little fat. A very nice and tasty wine.
2009 Rose' - A blend of granache and Cabernet sauvignon. This wine is completely dry with tropical fruit, cherry and lime flavors. A perfect warm weather wine that pairs with most foods $15
*Strawberry, dirt, and floral notes on the nose, a good indication of a refreshing rose'. The wine was dry, and refreshing with raspberry on the finish. Very easy to drink with sharp acid, a nice picnic or lazy day wine.
2006 Syrah- 100% syrah fermented in American and European oak. A juicy, fruit driven wine made to be drunk young. A medium bodied wine that has reined black fruit, plum and a fruity bouquet. Shows a solid backbone of toast, blackberries, and currant. $20
*Syrah is fast becoming one of my favorite wines, it is already in the top five. Every AZ winery makes a Syrah so it is interesting to get a comparison of all the different styles. On the nose I got the AZ red wine smell, plums and berry. The nose was very pretty, very inviting. On the palate I was pleased, the wine was dry and smooth with a great acid balance that you need for a great Syrah. A very nice wine.
2004 Syrah (sold out) - no vintners notes or price
* This was voted as the best red wine in the state the year it was released. On the nose you get an explosion of plums, cherries, and dark chocolate. Again a very pretty welcoming wine. This is a big bold Syrah that would love food, and with the nice acid balance would pair with a number of dishes from pizza to BBQ, to something refined like Duck. Loads of black plums with soft tannins, a very tasty wine.
2006 CSM - A rich blend of 30% Cabernet, 60 % Syrah and 10 %Merlot. Full bodied and complex. Bronze Medal Winner. Aged in American and French oak for 18 months. $22
*On the nose I again got the AZ red wine smell with blackberries and chocolate. The syrah explodes on your palate first, this is a big wine, but very yummy. It has come good tannins due to the Cabernet, and lots of berry flavor. A great BBQ wine.
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon- Made with 15% Merlot, this wine was aged in American and European oak. Very rich and full bodied. Can be aged 3-5 years. Silver Medal Winner. A Bordeaux like wine that has a big mouth feel with rich tannins and a long lasting finish. $25
*On the nose once again I got the AZ red wine smell, chocolate (a very common smell in all his wines), currants, plums, and red licorice. So lots of stuff going on with this one on just the first sniff. An easy to drink Cab, the tannins are not overwhelming which is the sigh of a balanced Cab. The Merlot plays a nice role in this wine bringing forward the big plum flavors. Perfect steak or red meat wine.
2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon- The best of the best. This is 100% Cabernet made in very small lots. Fermented in small individual lots, hand punched down. Aged in French and American oak or 36 months. Rich and structured with well integrated tannins. Dark fruit and a hint of chocolate. $36*Chocolate and floral notes on the nose. Soft tannins, but this is a teeth stainer! Great structure on this wine, the best of what they have to offer so this was a nice end to the tasting. Really fills your mouth, and the texture is very cream like, with hints of dark chocolate and blackberry. Bust out the lamb dish for this one!
Shadow- Our non-vintage dessert wine. Lightly sweet,this wine sells out in a hurry. Currently sold out.
*Port like wine in both smell and taste. Great with the dark chocolate they offered with the wine. Very sweet wine, something you could drink as a dessert.
So there it is, I finished Sonoita/Elgin wine country! If you are looking for a winery with a vision to grow and produce wine from only their grapes than please visit Rancho Rossa. They have a very cool rock n' roll tasting room with the goal of making everyone feel welcome and enjoy their wine adventure. Sarah will happily pour you wine, and the world's sweetest dog will greet you as you walk in the door!
Please pass this post around to help support Arizona's growing wine scene! Great things are happening in this great state. Seek out AZ wine, you will not be disappointed.
Thank you and enjoy!